Wilderness is a Necessity

Wilderness is a Necessity

Posted on March 25 by admin
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Today’s blog post is from Kevin Callan, author of Dazed But Not Confused. Kevin is the author of 13 books, including the hugely popular Paddler’s Guide series and the bestselling The Happy Camper. His writing and photography appear in Explore and Canoeroots magazines, and he is the recipient of five National Magazine Awards. Kevin lives in Peterborough, Ontario.


A couple years ago I was diagnosed with Benign Positional Vertigo – a sudden spinning sensation, feeling similar to walking off the Tilt-A-Whirl ride at the amusement park after drinking a full 26 oz. bottle of bourbon. It’s due to a disturbance within the inner ear and quite honesty was a life-altering experience I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. The specialists administered drugs, told me to stop drinking coffee (caffeine is thought to induce the spinning) and sent me to physiotherapy periodically for them to perform a fancy maneuver of shaking my head back and forth to loosen the small bits of bone-like calcium that supposedly clogs within the tube of the inner ear. I was also told that I had the illness forever, my hearing would gradually get worse, my balance would depreciate and the act of going canoeing into wilderness areas, especially alone and for long extended periods, would have to stop.

Having an odd affliction for eternity was a shock, loosing my hearing was upsetting, and walking around as if I’m drunk most of the time was hard to deal with – but no longer being able to go on long solo canoe trips was absolutely unacceptable! So I did what any wilderness-loving paddler would do that succumbed to an illness – I stocked up on the drugs I needed,  taught myself how to do the head shaking maneuver myself, and packed enough decaffeinated coffee I would need for an extensive solo canoe trip. The majority of doctors advised against it – but my physiotherapist promoted it; even helped me prepare for it.

The results were one of the best trips I’ve ever had – one that included awesome rapids, phenomenal fishing, incredible scenery, utter solitude…and zero spinning episodes! Maybe wilderness travel is the cure for all, maybe a stress free environment should be put in a bottle and sold at a pharmacy store; maybe the trip was more like taking a dash of placebo. Whatever the case, the trip was proof that there’s a sense of magic out there in the woods, a drug like no other, and a reminder that wilderness is a necessity of the human spirit, not a luxury.